Friday, August 26, 2016

Why consumers and shareholders should punish Apple for removing the headphone jack.

Apple is waging a war against usefulness. Under design chief Jony Ive's regime, Apple's hardware has suffered continual regression that makes it less useful with every iteration.

I'm not talking about power users, either; I'm talking about the general public. And right now I'm talking about the iPhone.

You see it every day: People squatting in the corner of a coffee shop with their iPhone plugged into an outlet... and that's before lunch, when no battery should be dead. People carrying power bricks and wads of wire around, begging the bartender to plug their iPhones in. Or crawling under tables to do so themselves. This is what Jony Ive says you want. And it's pathetic.

Apple's excuse is its continued, baffling, and unasked-for mania to make things "thinner." As internal components shrink, Apple doesn't use the space for battery. It just makes the phone "thinner" (but not really, because the camera lens sticks out). Yet Apple wants us to use MORE battery power; for Bluetooth to communicate with the Watch, or stream music over the cellular radio, or use GPS-based apps and games. And the thinner phone is less ergonomic and more prone to being dropped and broken.

But we already knew that the majority Apple's customers have condemned the iPhone's design as a failure. How do we know? By simply observing that the vast majority of them have buried the "thin, elegant" iPhone in a bulky, tacky case. Because they believe it can't withstand being used for its primary purpose, and they simply can't reliably grasp it. And a growing number of those cases are even bulkier and tackier, because they must also serve as the phone's battery.

Even Apple felt compelled to introduce an embarrassing battery case for its so-called mobile phone.

But that's not the worse aspect of all of this. Now Apple has removed the audio output from its primary music players. Let's consider the stupidity of this move, which should anger every user and shareholder. Starting with a quote from MarketWatch (

"With sales of iPhones stagnating, Chief Executive Tim Cook has focused on software and services as a growth engine for the world’s most valuable company"

Apple's aggressive promotion and spending on Apple Music prove that it considers music to be a major part of that "growth engine." So why on earth would Apple impede the public's consumption of that service by deleting the music output from its music players? To sell a relatively few clunky headphones?

That's extremely poor strategy, as the market has reached maturity and people are simply bored with the iPhone.

Every investor should take Apple to task for this irresponsible and inexcusable step backward. Not only will Apple lose iPhone sales to this (yes, they will), but it undermines Apple's future business by hampering consumption of its services. This kind of gross misstep should also be punished by the stock market; another loss for investors who are already part owners of Apple.

All the excuses for this blunder are laughable at best. Let's dismantle a few:

1. You can use an adapter.

The asinine adapter isn't the answer, because (aside from having to carry yet another piece of crap around everywhere with your "thin, elegant" iPhone) you can't charge the phone while using it. Want to listen to music on that long road trip while navigating? NOPE.

And good luck replacing that adapter when you lose it on your overseas trip. And if you can, it'll be $30 (or more; we don't know yet).

2. The headphone jack is outdated, like floppy disks and physical media.

This may be the dumbest one. Your ears are analog, and that's not going to change. To hear music, it must at some point be converted from digital data into an analog waveform by a digital-to-analog (D/A) converter. That waveform is used to electrically move a piece of material that moves air against your eardrum. If the music player has a speaker (like every phone), it must contain a D/A converter. So that's not going away; Apple's just denying you the connection to it.

Now Apple wants everyone else to put redundant D/A converters in every listening appliance. Every headset, earbud, car stereo,  home stereo, boombox, hotel-room clock radio, TV, portable amp, PA system. Yeah, this isn't just about headphones. It's about an entire planet's worth of sound reproduction equipment that does and always will have to deliver an analog waveform to your ears.

So no, this is not comparable to abandoning an obsolete format.

3. Removing the headphone jack will allow Apple to make the phone thinner.

This is a crock. The Lightning port is 3mm across. The headphone jack is 3.7mm across. And the iPhone's thickness will be dictated by the protruding camera lens.

We already covered this excuse above, and nobody is campaigning for thinner iPhones. To continue to push this played-out marketing gimmick embarrasses Apple and lends credence to the claim that they're out of ideas.

4. Almost everyone uses wireless headphones, proven by the fact that more wireless ones are sold now.

Lame strawman that only a shut-in would believe. Look around you in the real world. Even at the gym, the vast majority of earphones in use are wired. The sales-figures argument is invalid, because music players and iPhones have come with earbuds, so most people (sadly) will simply put up with them and not buy anything better. It stands to reason that those who do buy additional headphones are likely to buy wireless ones (because they already have wired earbuds, in case I need to spell that out).

But that doesn't matter anyway: The headphone jack doesn't prevent anyone from using wireless or digital headphones.

In the end there simply is no excuse for removing the headphone jack. There are only lame attempts to explain why we shouldn't care.


  1. If on a balance of considerations, consumers wanted more battery life they would buy a different phone. If consumers don't trust themselves to look after an iphone but want the product for a myriad of other reasons, they buy a case. It's not that complex.

    The situation with the 3.5mm audio jack is also quite simple. It's a compromise one way or the other. It IS a massive port and it can be replaced entirely while taking exactly ZERO additional space in the device. That space can be used for any number of things but Apple chose better battery life and a home button with no moving parts. Both things that are a positive change for the vast majority of users. Don't like it? Don't buy it. Such hand wringing over an issue of such tiny magnitude.

    1. It is NOT a compromise. Leaving the jack entails no loss whatsoever, whereas removing it entails profound loss. The strawman about "thinner" has been abandoned even by Apple. As you know from the above post, it never held up and really no reasonable person expected it to.

      Not to mention, any story about "saving space" is debunked by Apple's embarrassing promotion of "stereo" SPEAKERS! Seriously? Wasting space inside the phone for speakers that are separated by a few inches? This is laughable... or even more insulting to the audience.

      Apple has NEVER chosen better battery life, so I don't know what fiction you're advancing there. See Jony Ive's pompous comments about how "you don't want better battery life," as reported in the press. I'll try to dig up a link.

      The non-mechanical Home button is NOT a positive. A mechanical switch can issue a hardware interrupt to a processor in the event of a hang or loop. But a software-only button can't. Thus, it's actually LESS reliable. I don't blame the average consumer for not knowing that, so I really don't make an issue of it.

      And your assertion about what consumers would do is also false. They've already invested not only money but time into the Apple ecosystem, and the only viable alternative is Android; which is a massive fraud, failing to deliver on its promise. The great "open-source" OS that was supposed to liberate us from vendor and telco tyranny HASN'T. In fact, it has turned out to be even worse than Apple's crippled offerings, in that users can't even update their own devices.

      Also, Android doesn't have any comprehensive syncing option. Apple's calendars, contacts, bookmarks, and other PIM data sync with native applications on one's computer. Android does not appear to have any answer to this.

      Therefore, anti-customer behavior by Apple (like this headphone-jack fiasco) creates a giant pain in the ass for current Apple users.

      When the iPhone entered the market, the market was a pathetic circus of incompetence. Phone and OS design were spiraling downward, with regressions in even simple phone functionality. Apple waded into it and, predictably dominated it simply by sucking less (and having a great mobile browser). Just as the iPod instantly dominated the MP3-player market by not being an idiotically designed product.

      Even non-Apple customers should be pissed at Apple's regressions, because the phone market is sinking right back into that morass of incompetence. With the iPhone becoming less and less of a useful option, we're left with... Android. So we have Apple's pitifully crippled hardware and software, or the cobbled-together mess of fragmented hacks that is Android.

      Wow, talk about an entire industry going off the rails. In all of this, consumers lose. And largely because apologists excuse these rip-offs and berate those who stand up for better. Don't be one of those apologists.

    2. i agree with your point on apple/iphone. seems like those apple fanboys developed some kind of shit-blindness in themselves. iphones are getting worse and worse since the times they "took victory" over jailbreak (they really needed so much time to do that, considering hardware and software are proprietary and totally closed to outer world? what a losers..). the moment they declined me a right to do whatever i like with the (overpriced) product i payed for i switched to android.
      it not that bad, as you describe, google keep and calendars do their job well. and my xiaomi phone costs 3 times less and performs faster o_O
      also, hardware button was the only nice thing left in iphones. and i never suspected i will ever mention 3.5mm minijack is a mandatory thing, but looks like apple finally decided to put a final nail to their coffin. i laugh so hard, rly.

      also android is not the only one. i think i will get windows phone in a couple of years when it will be more mature. windows OS calendars and stuff work and look pretty decent in win10 already, seamlessly synchronizing with google stuff for example. and it will go better and better. MS is getting more transparent towards developers with the speed of light, open sources platform code, releasing cross platform (android-ios-windows) development solutions and so on, while apple products will remain as proprietary as possible till the end.

      so we are not left with one competitor, apple just frees their niche for another. MS had entered the market too late to be competitive, but now they have a real chance to shine. and they are doing right steps for it for a quite some time already and i'm speaking as a developer: MS is becoming THE cool company now. it is clearly seen from inside and not much of so from the outside YET.

  2. why punish this shitload of company in any weird way at all if customers can (and will) just punish it with their money?
    time of apple to go had come long ago, so just don't buy this shit anymore. as i do since gen 4.

  3. sorry, but can't edit my comment until it is approved..

    "Now Apple wants everyone else to put redundant D/A converters in every listening appliance."

    they want too much this time, they possibly feeling themselves omnipotent for some reason, feel like they own the world of gadgets and can dictate what is the standard. but the forgot themselves in playing. since Jobs had have gone, innovations had gone along with him. and that crap apple trying to promote as innovations are just poorly thought and poorly designed, well, crap.
    but their credibility is exhausted. more and more ppl starting to understand they are fed lame, incompetent and expensive solutions for their own account. and minijack history will be enlightening for many. and those who will tolerate it are just shit-eaters, sorry for them. tho, may be ppl that don't like music will not give a damn, but at least they have to pay attention to this fact and ask themselves, where is it all going to.

  4. I have been very happy with my Windows phone for 2 years, but due to almost no updates by Verizon, the lack of apps, and almost no market share to keep MS in the game, it seems time to move to another platform. I have used Apple but not Android. Not sure which way I will decide but it seems consumers get the bad end of the deal no matter what. Android updates are very slow to happen, and Apple has all the issues stated in this article and others. And the cost for any of these high-end phones like from Samsung and Apple seems outrageous. Difficult to see how an average user wins.

    1. I'm with you. It's incredible what a sorry mess the market has become, when it could have really advanced. Apple is willfully taking it backward, while Google launched an inept mess with Android. Now we're stuck with these two losers.

      I would buy a Nexus phone next, except the headphone jack is on the wrong end. Seriously, why do these companies work so hard to find ways to screw up their products with some profound defect?